At 32, Damien Chazelle is the youngest director to have received both the Golden Globe Award as well as the Academy Award for Best Director besides several other accolades. However, the journey to reach the pinnacle of success had not been a bed of roses. Chazelle struggled hard to get his scripts accepted; however, it was not too long before his genius shone through.
Born in an academically-inclined family, Chazelle studied filmmaking at Harvard University, where he befriended Justin Hurwitz. It was with Hurwitz that Chazelle debuted his early directorial feature iGuy and Madeline on a Park Bench as a part of his senior thesis project. From there, with renewed determination, Chazelle moved to Los Angeles with the ultimate dream of producing his musical La La Land. In Hollywood, he worked as a ‘writer-for-hire’ while continuously trying to find ways to achieve his goal.
Chazelle’s breakthrough film, Whiplash, was a product of a writer’s block while being stuck on another script, He said: “I just thought, that’s not working, let me put it away and write this thing about being a jazz drummer in high school.” Those experiences were derived from his very own life as a struggling jazz drummer in high school under the supervision of a strict teacher who had been the inspiration for his character, Terence Fletcher (played by J.K. Simmons). Chazelle, despite having written an amazing script, found it too personal and “put it in a drawer”. The script remained unmade for a year and featured on the Black List when nobody picked it up. It was not until he made a short film on the script to prove the merit of his concept, that Right of Way Films and Blumhouse productions picked it up. Whiplash, released in 2014, was an immense success and one which received various prestigious awards as well as five Oscar nominations, out of which it won three.
Whiplash would eventually make Damien Chazelle’s lifelong dreams come true. Financiers were finally interested in funding his film; La La Land was released to the general public in 2016 and was a box-office hit. No stranger to directing extraordinary films, he danced into the world of art and love, along with two other phenomenal actors Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Brilliant cinematography along with sublime dream sequences made the film stand out from the rest. Los Angeles is the city of stars and sparkle and it is nothing short of a fairytale. The exquisite beauty had a hint of sadness which is a result of Chazelle’s genius. Chazelle also paid tribute to nearly all his predecessors; La la Land was an ingenious exhibition of visuals and sound that made the audience laugh, cry, and fall in and out of love at the same time. It is for this subliminal masterpiece that Chazelle went on to become the youngest recipient of the most coveted awards in the scope of cinema.
His upcoming film Babylon is set to debut in 2021 and has a pretty heavyweight cast comprising big names like Brad Pitt, Emma Stone and more. The film, thought to be quite similar to Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, is said to “take place during the transition from silent films to talkies and will feature a mix of real-life and fictional characters”.
Until the film is finally released, however, cinephiles might be interested in indulging in some of this masterful director’s favourites that have been handpicked by him. Collected by FavFavorite, see the full list below.
Damien Chazelle’s 18 Favourite Films
- The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (English subtitled) –Jacques Demy, 1964
- Chinatown – Shakti Samanta, 1962
- Casablanca -Michael Curtiz, 1942
- Top Hat – Mark Sandrich, 1935
- Boogie Nights – Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997
- Heat– Michael Mann, 1995
- Killer of Sheep: The Charles Burnett Collection– Charles Burnett, 1978
- The Long Goodbye – Robert Altman, 1973
- Pulp Fiction – Quentin Tarantino, 1994
- Rebel Without A Cause – Nicholas Ray, 1955
- Singin’ in the Rain- Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen, 1952
- A Star is Born – Frank Pierson, 1976
- Sunset Boulevard – Billy Wilder, 1950
- Love Me Tonight – Rouben Mamoulian, 1932
- Summer Stock – Charles Walters, 1950
- The Band Wagon – Vincente Minnelli, 1953
- Touki Bouki – Djibril Diop Mambety, 1976
- Beau Travail – Claire Denis, 1999